Lloyds internet banking customers struggling to access their accounts online

Elliott Brown/flickr.com

Internet banking customer endure further frustration accessing accounts as bosses say they can not give a timescale for a fix.

Lloyds Banking Group says it is still working to identify a glitch that has left internet banking customers struggling to access their accounts online for a second day.

The problems – quite common within the industry – first arose on Wednesday morning, with account holders taking to social media to vent their frustrations ever since.

Lloyds said the problem appeared to be intermittent and was being seen across its network of banks including Halifax and Bank of Scotland, with both apps and online access suffering from the fault.

It is understood that some people unable to access their money have later been able to log in.

The bank said the vast majority of its customers did not seem to be impacted but the timescale for a fix was unclear.

“We have been having intermittent service issues with internet banking.

“We are working hard to restore a full service for our customers and apologise for any inconvenience caused,” a spokeswoman said.

Lloyds, as a group, has six million digital customers and they are not the first to suffer from such banking issues.

A series of industry failures – both online and in cash machine operations – has prompted a backlash from consumer groups, regulators and MPs (BSE: MPSLTD.BO – news) who have urged the sector to increase spending on their systems' resilience.

RBS (LSE: RBS.L – news) is among banks to have been fined for poor performance.

It was handed a £56m penalty over a computer outage in 2012.

Tesco Bank is the lender to have attracted regulatory interest most recently.

Sky News revealed on Wednesday how it had called in auditors to investigate the hacking attack last autumn in which customers had £2.5m fraudulently taken.

The Financial Times reported last month that the Financial Conduct Authority was exploring whether Tesco Bank had exposed its customers to fraud by issuing debit cards with sequential numbers.

American Apparel purchased at Auction for approximately $88 million in cash

Canadian apparel maker Gildan Activewear has reportedly won a bankruptcy auction to buy U.S. fashion retailer American Apparel for approximately $88 million in cash. The purchase of the LA-based brand is now subject to approval from a bankruptcy court, which Gildan expects to be issued on Thursday. Under the deal, Gildan will acquire all intellectual property rights related to the American Apparel brand as well as manufacturing equipment – but the purchase does not include any of the brand's 110 retail stores. After the company's turnaround plan failed, American Apparel filed its second Chapter 11 in November, having amassed apporximately $177 million in debt. According to Raymond James analysts, the deal seems promising for the Canadian manufacturer, saying “With Gildan dominating in the basics category of the $4.5 billion print-wear market, the fashion and performance categories represent particularly attractive growth opportunities.”

Sainsbury’s beat forecasts for Christmas trading, Argos shines

Elliott Brown

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Wed, 11 Jan, 2017) London, UK – –

Britain's Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) beat forecasts for Christmas trading in its core supermarket business and was upbeat on prospects for its newly acquired Argos general merchandise division after that also surpassed expectations.

Sainsbury's, Britain's second biggest supermarket chain, joins fourth-ranked Morrisons (MRW.L) in reporting better-than-expected Christmas trading and its shares gained as much as 7 percent on Wednesday.

Industry data has indicated that market leader Tesco (TSCO.L), which gives an update on Thursday, has also fared well, showing shoppers were prepared to splash out on food over the holiday season.

A strong Christmas will come as a relief to the big four players in the industry following several years of turmoil sparked by the rise of German discounters Aldi [ALDIEI.UL] and Lidl [LIDUK.UL].

Those two challengers have also reported robust festive numbers as the overall market grew and reaffirmed their commitment to ultra-low prices.

Some analysts said the going could get tougher for Sainsbury's as price pressures rise in Britain.

“We remain of the view that challenges will be on the increase for both sides of the group, given a combination of sourcing pressures and a more challenged consumer,” said analysts at Jefferies, who have a “hold” stance on the stock.

Sainsbury's CEO Mike Coupe said the grocery market remained intensely competitive with the impact of the devaluation of sterling since last June's Brexit vote still uncertain.

Analysts have also expressed concern about a potential squeeze on consumer spending this year as inflation begins to erode real earnings growth.

Coupe said Sainsbury's was well placed to navigate external pressures because it has invested in areas of the business that are still showing strong growth, namely convenience and online, fresh food, clothing and general merchandise.

“We have reasons to believe…We have confidence in our strategy,” he told reporters.

ARGOS DELIVERS

Sainsbury's shares have increased 8.5 percent over the last year, well below rises of 35 percent and 50 percent for Tesco and Morrisons respectively.

However, while Tesco and Morrisons are both in turnaround mode after going through disastrous periods, Sainsbury's market share has remained broadly stable over the last five years.

Sainsbury's stock is relatively cheap compared to rivals. It has a forward price earnings ratio of around 12.8 times, compared to around 21 for Tesco and Morrisons, the biggest discount in at least a decade.

Enhancing its online logistics and general merchandise range, Sainsbury's last year bought Argos-owner Home Retail for 1.1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion).

Some investors fear the Argos takeover unwisely increases Sainsbury's exposure to higher import costs given sterling's depreciation. However, Coupe said Argos's Christmas trading had vindicated the deal.

“If anything the performance over Christmas has reinforced, if not added, to our confidence in our ability to execute, he said.

Argos' like-for-like sales increased 4.0 percent, well ahead of analysts' consensus of 1.5 percent.
Sainsbury's said sales at its grocery stores open over a year rose 0.1 percent, excluding fuel, in the 15 weeks to Jan. 7, the third quarter of the company's financial year.

Although only a modest increase, that was ahead of analysts' average forecast of a fall of 0.8 percent and a second quarter decline of 1.1 percent.

It was also Sainsbury's first positive like-for-like sales performance since the fourth quarter of its 2015-16 year.

Sainsbury's highlighted strong sales growth from its online groceries and convenience operations over the quarter, up over 9 and 6 percent, while sales of clothing and general merchandise were also up 10 percent and 3 percent.

Sainsbury's plans to introduce around 250 Argos outlets into its supermarkets over three years. It currently has 30, including 10 that have been operating for over a year.

Interim finance chief Ed Barker said he was comfortable with analysts average pretax profit forecast for 2016-17 of 573 million pounds, which would be a third straight year of decline.

By James Davey

 

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn discusses the new Rogue Sport

Carlos Ghosn, chairman, president and chief executive officer at Nissan, discusses the new Rogue Sport, autonomous driving, electric vehicles and changes for the auto industry under the incoming Trump administration. He speaks with David Westin on “Bloomberg Markets” from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.

Just Eat investors slim down their shareholdings as growth slows

Food Wine
aJ Gazmen/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 10 Jan, 2017) London, Uk – –

Just Eat, the takeaway app, failed to meet the City's appetite for growth over Christmas, prompting investors to slim down their shareholdings.

The company said in its annual update ahead of full-year results in March that overall orders across its territories were up 36pc in 2016, on a like-for-like basis. In the UK, the FTSE 250 company's main market, order growth was 31pc.

Analysts were disappointed by the figures, despite Just Eat's statement that it was in a “strong position to deliver full-year results in line with our previous financial guidance”.

Most analysts were expecting Just Eat to beat its guidance, however.

Barclays said the overall growth implied that Just Eat had fallen 400,000 orders short of its its expectations of 137 million. The miss was caused by a bigger than expected dip in takeaway demand over the Christmas period, the analysts claimed, and a further slowdown in the company's rapid expansion.

The non-UK takeaway business caused particular concern, with estimates suggesting orders had not grown sequentially for several quarters and that the end of 2016 was well below expectations.

Just Eat shares were trading down more than 6.5pc on the back of the update. David Buttress, its chief executive, said the board had continuing confidence in the business going into 2017.

Jefferies said that despite the disappointment there were “no real knocks” to the case for investment in Just Eat from the update. It said the company's slowing growth was “just a reality check as the guidance upgrade conveyor belt comes to a stop”.

Competition in the food delivery market has been intensifying, with venture capital-backed rivals to Just Eat – including Deliveroo and Uber – making headway.

Just Eat, which made its stock market debut nearly three years ago at 260p per share and now stands at more than double that, has responded by seeking to buy up smaller players.

Last month it announced a takeover of Hungry House, once its main challenger in the UK, for up to £240m. The deal is yet to face scrutiny from the Competition and Markets Authority.

By Christopher Williams

Scrapping Mexico The Plant Is a Business Decision: Bill Ford

Ford Chairman Bill Ford discusses the Detroit auto industry, Donald Trump’s trade policies, the president-elect’s nomination of Elaine Chao for Transportation secretary and the company’s decision to scrap plans for a new plant in Mexico. He speaks with David Westin on “Bloomberg Markets” from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan

Harrods landmark London store came under protest over waiters’ tips

Saturday was a busy old day at Harrods – but for all the wrong reasons as far as the luxury department store is concerned. A protest outside the shop's entrance brought together disgruntled restaurant staff, complaining that up to 75 percent of the tips they receive in one of London's best-known landmarks are being kept by its Qatari owner.

Maqui Berry the new super food coming to juice cleanses near you

There’s a new super food coming to juice cleanses near you, and it’s called the Maqui Berry. Like its predecessors, the Maqui Berry has ridiculous amounts of antioxidants and lots of the accompanying claims about its body-healing properties. Ashlee Vance, the host of Hello World, took a recent trip to the wine country outside of Santiago to see how the Maqui Berry is being processed by SouthAm Freeze Dry.

Toyota could be imposed with heavy border tax if it builds factory in Mexico: President-elect Trump

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Fri, 6 Jan, 2017) London, UK – –

Shares of Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) fell more than 3 percent on Friday after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump threatened to impose heavy taxes on the automaker if it builds its Corolla cars for the U.S. market at a plant in Mexico.

Toyota dropped as much as 3.1 percent to 6,830 yen ($59.06) in early trade before paring losses, after Trump's tweet on Thursday – “Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.”

The tweet was Trump's first broadside against a foreign automaker. He has slammed automakers in the United States for building cars in lower-cost factories south of the border, which he said costs American jobs.

This week Ford Motor Co (F.N) scrapped plans to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in Mexico after Trump criticized the investment.

Trump's tweet confused Toyota's existing Baja plant with the planned $1 billion plant in Guanajuato, where construction got under way in November.

Baja produces around 100,000 pickup trucks and truck beds annually, including the Tacoma pick-up truck. In September, Toyota said it would increase output of pick-up trucks by more than 60,000 units annually.

The Guanajuato plant will build Corollas and have an annual capacity of 200,000 when it comes online in 2019, shifting production of the small car from Canada.

Other Japanese automakers too have plants in Mexico. Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) has two facilities, producing 830,000 units in the year to March.

Honda Motor Co (7267.T) operates two assembly and engine plants in Mexico with a total annual capacity of 263,000 vehicles. It also operates a transmission plant with an annual capacity of 350,000 units.

Other Japanese carmakers also fell in early trade, with a stronger yen dragging on prices too. Honda fell more than 2 percent before paring losses, while Nissan also shed 2 percent, underperforming the broad Topix .TOPX index.

 

By Thomas Wilson

British Airways cabin crew to stage 48-hour strike after rejecting pay deal

The British Airways cabin crews are set to stage a walkout over payments after rejecting a deal proposed by the airline in December.
Trade union, Unite, announced that up to 2700 British Airways cabin crew members will leave work for 48 hours from January 10. The strike was initially planned for Christmas Day and December 26 but it was postponed after the airline made the offer. However, later 70 percent of the union members voted the offer down. Unite says low salaries have forced some of its members to find a second job. British Airways have called the walkout completely unjustified. The people involved in the strike account for 15 percent of the airline’s cabin crew.

Car prices to rise within weeks due to weak pound, industry’s trade body warns

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com- – Thur, 5 Jan, 2017) London, Uk – –

Sterling's weakness will see new car costs climb within weeks, adding to the list of products predicted to grow in price in 2017.

Car prices will start rising within weeks following the slump in the pound, the industry's trade body has warned.

The comments, by the head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in an interview with Sky News, add to fears of growing pressure on household budgets already facing rising fuel and retail costs.

Next used a Christmas trading statement to warn on Wednesday that its prices were on course to rise by 5%.

Meanwhile, Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane said rising prices may see consumers “throttle back” on spending – a key component of economic growth, which has partly been fuelled by rising household debt.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said new car customers would see increases in the first quarter of the year, with rises of 2-3% over coming months.

It would mean a hike of up to about £400 on a new Ford Fiesta Zetec, which currently sells for just over £13,500.

That is in addition to an earlier warning that motorists face paying £1,500 more for imported cars when the UK leaves the EU if the divorce deal results in new tariffs.

Mr Hawes made the latest comments about an imminent price hike as the SMMT published new car registration figures showing a record number vehicles, almost 2.7 million, left showrooms in 2016.

That was 2.2% up on 2015 and the fifth consecutive year of growth, though 2017 is expected to see a fall in sales.

Mr Hawes said that the private market for new cars had declined over 2016 but the market had been bolstered by strong fleet demand.

Meanwhile, diesel cars saw a record number of new car registrations – climbing to almost 1.3 million – despite the fall-out from the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

The SMMT figures showed VW new car sales in the UK fell 7.5% last year on 2015's total.

UK car manufacturing has also been strong, with 2016 figures to be published later this month as the industry aims to hit the 1972 record for number of cars produced.

But it now faces a “double-edged sword” from the collapse in the pound – which has fallen by about 18% against the dollar since June's Brexit vote.

There is a benefit because 80% of cars produced in the UK are exported and the fall in sterling makes them cheaper for overseas buyers.

But 60% of parts that go into cars come from abroad, so the cost of these has gone up.

Meanwhile, more than 80% of cars sold in the UK are imported.

“Ultimately, a fall in sterling is going to flow through to an increase in pricing, probably of the magnitude of two or three per cent over the coming months,” Mr Hawes said.

“I think we will see increasing prices certainly in the first quarter.”

Mr Hawes said it was too difficult to pencil in forecasts after that.

He added that the industry wanted to remain in the customs union, which would mean tariff-free trade as well as other “clear benefits” such as moving cars and parts quickly.

Additional costs would make it much harder to compete with other plants in Europe.

The SMMT warned in November that new tariffs, should the UK go for a “hard Brexit” split from the single market, could add billions to both import and export costs resulting in rising prices.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Amazon and Forever 21 considering an acquisition offer of American Apparel LLC

Amazon and Forever 21 are two of the companies considering an acquisition of American Apparel LLC. The Los Angeles-based “Made in the U.S.A.” company is set for a bankruptcy auction that “will determine the future” of the company's manufacturing plant in California. An acquisition offer made by a company would have to top Canadian apparel maker Gildan Activewear Inc, which has already placed a $66 million bid. Gildan would keep some production in California but would probably move some manufacturing to low-cost countries.

Next shares fell more than 10pc after ‘difficult’ Christmas trading

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 4 Jan, 2017) London, Uk – –

Next shares fell more than 10pc in early trading after it warned that its profits would be at the lower end of its guidance after “difficult” Christmas trading.

The high street retailer added that it expected 2017 to be another challenging year due to a squeeze on consumer spending and the fall in the value of the pound, which will hit its costs.

Next shares immediately tumbled to £42.31 following the gloomy update, in which it reported a further decline in sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. It said a difficult trading session meant its end-of-season sale was down 7pc on the same period in 2015.

The FTSE 100 company had previously said its profit before tax for the year to January would be between £785m and £825m, but this morning revealed a revised central guidance of £792m.

Total sales in the year to December 24, including markdown sales, were up 0.4pc on the previous year. But full-price sales fell 1.1pc on last year.

The group had enjoyed better-than-expected sales in the summer but now anticipates the “cyclical slow-down in spending on clothing and footwear” to continue into 2017.

The prices for garments it sources are set to increase following the devaluation of the pound, Next said, adding: “We may see a further squeeze in general spending as inflation begins to erode real earnings growth.”

Sales for the year to December 24 were down 4.3pc in Next retail but directory sales were up 3.6pc.

“Next is well placed to weather a downturn in consumer demand,” it said. “Our balance sheet remains robust and our net debt is forecast to close the current year at around £850m, this is more than covered by the value of our Directory debtor book, which will be approximately £1bn at the end of January 2017.”

Analysts at Jefferies said: “Next's disappointing Christmas trading leads to an even more downbeat outlook for 2017/18.

“Offering negative earnings growth and a lower special dividend, it is difficult to see any near-term upside here.”

By Sam Dean

Ivan Rogers Britain’s EU ambassador quits before Brexit negotiations

(qlmbusinessnews.com via newstalk.com – – Tue, 3 Jan, 2017) London, Uk – –

Brexit Vote
Rareclass/flickr

Britain's EU ambassador has unexpectedly quit just months before the formal Brexit talks are due to get under way.

Ivan Rogers, who was not due to leave his post until October, has announced he would step down from his post early.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she would trigger formal negotiations for leaving the EU by the end of March.

Rogers, who was appointed to his Brussels role by David Cameron in November 2013, is one of Britain's most experienced diplomats on EU affairs.

While his resignation has been welcomed by Eurosceptics in providing a clean break from the previous administration ahead of the crunch talks, his loss of expertise during what are likely to be complex and fraught negotiations has been described by others as “a body blow”.

Rogers sparked controversy at the end of last year after he privately warned the British government a post-Brexit trade deal could take a decade to finalise and even then may fail to get approved by member states.

He faced criticism at the time from prominent Leave campaigners who accused the “scarred” diplomat of “gloomy pessimism”.

But Downing Street had come to his defence arguing he was simply passing on the views of other EU nations and was “doing the job of an ambassador”.

Confirming his departure, a UK government spokesman said: “Sir Ivan Rogers has resigned a few months early as UK Permanent Representative to the European Union.

“Sir Ivan has taken this decision now to enable a successor to be appointed before the UK invokes Article 50 by the end of March. We are grateful for his work and commitment over the last three years.”

Responding to his resignation, Hilary Benn, Labour chair of the cross-party Brexit select committee, said: “This has clearly taken everyone by surprise and it couldn't be a more difficult time, to lose someone of his experience and insight.”

Highlighting the timescale set by Mrs May to trigger the formal Article 50 process for leaving the EU, Mr Been said finding a replacement should be an “urgent priority” for the government.

UKIP donor and Leave.EU chairman Arron Banks said: “This is a man who claimed it could take up to 10 years to agree a Brexit deal.

Rogers was awarded a knighthood last year for services to British, European and international policy.

London to welcome China’s first freight train

China’s multi-billion dollar One Belt, One Road plan is a strategy launched in 2013 and focus on infrastructure and trade network connecting Asia with Africa and Europe along old Silk Route trading routes in an effort to boost trade and economic growth.

With that in mind China launched its first freight train to London, which will travel from Yiwu West Railway Station in Zhejiang Province, Eastern China to Barking, London, taking 18 days to travel over 12,000 kilometres.
The route runs through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before arriving in London. The UK is the eighth country to be added to the China-Europe service, and London is the 15th city.

China estimates that it will gain heavily from opening the ancient trade routes which will, in turn, boost regional cooperation and better relations between countries that lie along the Silk Route.

UK government announced plans on Monday to build 17 new towns and villages

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Mon, 2 Jan , 2017) London, UK – –

Chinese Developers
Gareth Williams/www.flickr.com

 

Britain's government announced plans on Monday to build 17 new towns and villages across the English countryside in a bid to ease a chronic housing shortage.

The new “garden” communities – from Cumbria in the north to Cornwall on England's southern-most tip – would be part of a scheme to build up to 200,000 new homes, housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell said in a statement.

That would still be a fraction of the million houses the government has said it wants to see built from 2015-2020 in an already densely populated nation.

Successive governments have promised to tackle a shortage that has seen house prices spiral in London and other major cities, out of the reach of many buyers.

But developers have complained about a lack of available land and strict planning laws that outlaw development on “greenbelt” land around existing towns and give local councils the power to block construction.

Britain asked local authorities last year to say if they were interested in having new garden developments – based on a 19th century idea of housing growing populations in self-contained towns surrounded by countryside.

Barwell announced the locations for the first time on Monday and said the state would loosen planning restrictions and give 7.4 million pounds ($9.10 million) to help fund the building.

The three newly announced towns, with more than 10,000 homes each, will be built near Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow, the government said.

The new garden villages, including Bailrigg in Lancaster, Long Marston in Stratford-on-Avon, Welborne in Hampshire and Culm in Devon, would each have 1,500-10,000 properties.

Together with seven other garden towns already announced, the new developments could provide almost 200,000 homes, Barwell said.

by Kylie MacLellan